It’s been a long road to recovery for Oakland Raiders cornerback D.J. Hayden since an injury to his heart suffered during his senior season at the University of Houston nearly cost him his life.
But the Raiders took a leap of faith in making Hayden a first-round draft pick in April. Friday night against the Chicago Bears he’ll play in live game-action for the first time since his injury.
“I’m looking forward to my first NFL game. Can’t wait to get out there and play,” Hayden said, via Josh Dubow of the Associated Press. “I want to go ahead and shake the rust off. Get wet a little bit. Can’t wait.”
Hayden was injured during a practice in November and required emergency surgery to save his life. He had an additional surgery in May to clear scar tissue from the initial surgery. That procedure kept Hayden sidelined for the start of training camp and limited to a red “no-contact” jersey until last Sunday.
Hayden participated in pregame warm-ups last week against the New Orleans Saints but wasn’t able to play. Now the Raiders are looking forward to finally seeing the player they drafted get to work.
“I just want to see him play football,” head coach Dennis Allen said. “It’s been a while since he’s really had an opportunity to go out and play real football. I’m looking forward to watching him. He’s done some really good things in this camp. He’s got exceptional coverage skills. I think everyone is anxious to see when he has his first real live contact.”